Strange as it may sound, but sneakers experienced something of a resurgence in 2015. If a common theme could be found throughout the year, it was one of reinvention, with classic and brand new silhouettes alike experiencing a second life through technology and new manufacturing techniques. The Chuck Taylor All Star II showed that an extremely old dog could be taught new tricks, while adidas' 3D printed Futurecraft pointed toward the future of sneakers. Check out our laced-up year in review in the following pages.
Can there be a sneaker grail if it doesn't exist? The question was rendered moot when Nike finally announced a working Nike Mag, with the news coming appropriately enough on October 21, 2015, aka Back to the Future Day. The self-lacing Nike Mag would be demonstrated by Marty McFly himself, while Nike CEO Mark Parker disclosed that the power-lace technology would be tested on Nike footwear across all sports.
The Converse Chuck is the very definition of staying power, as the sneaker has been around since 1917. So when Converse designers made the decision to update the iconic silhouette, they made sure to keep the general shape intact, while improving almost everything else. A Lunarlon sockliner, foam padded collar and non-slip gusseted tongue all delivered enhanced comfort, while the premium canvas build was lined with perforated micro suede for breathability. On the launch date, Sizes old out in stores throughout the country, making a 100-year-old shoe suddenly hot again.
Just the fact that this special release had sprung from the minds of Michael Jordan, Mark Parker and Tinker Hatfield would have been enough for most fans, but the resulting pack delivered on its promise. The silhouettes took the form of the first and most recent iterations of the Air Jordan line, though the traditional leather and Flyeave materials on the AJ1 and XX9 were flipped.
adidas started 2015 with a bang, releasing the Ultra Boost as its new flagship runner. Months later, its popularity would skyrocket thanks to the approbation of one Kanye West, but make no mistake, the shoe can stand on its own merits. In addition to the eponymous BOOST cushioning system, the kicks are built with a featherweight Primenknit upper and revised dual-density TORSION SYSTEM for stability and a smooth ride.
Jordan Brand's remastered retro program yielded a stellar example of the shoe that started it all, as the classic "Chicago" colorway of the Air Jordan 1 hit stores back in May. The faithful reproduction kept all the details intact, including the Nike Air woven tag on the lightly padded nylon tongue. Nothing beats the original recipe.
3D printing is nothing short of a glimpse into the future, and the technology has potential application in the manufacturing of running shoes. adidas demonstrated its potential with the Futurecraft, a lightweight running silhouette resting on a 3D printed midsole, one that can be precisely tailored to the cushioning needs of each individual’s foot.
Nike is sending off the Mamba in style. Kobe Bryant is wearing the Nike Kobe 11 during his final season in the NBA, and the shoe has a unique build that features a Flyknit upper attached directly to the outsole shell, which itself has a pioneering tread and traction pattern. Woven through the Flyknit fabrication are Pearlescent fibers, made with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) yarn to add strength without any added weight.
New Balance's design studio in Tokyo reworked the 1600 silhouette, resulting in a sleek, minimalist silhouette inspired by the lifestyle of the metropolitan Tokyo consumer. Built with either suede or leather, the one-piece vamp confers a modern look, while the REVlite midsole offers a cushy ride underneath.
In honor of the unofficial holiday we call Black Friday, PUMA released all-black editions of the classic R698 and Blaze of Glory, both featuring contrast white midsoles equipped with Trinomic cushioning. The latter is finished with technical mesh on the collar, the former sports an embossed black leather upper, and both are nice exemplars of the less-is-more approach to sneaker design.
A strong contender for the sneaker that caused the most heartache in 2015, the adidas Yeezy Boost 350 was coveted by many and actually acquired by few. The Primeknit-infused lace-up came and went in the original colorway, followed by Black, Moonrock and Oxford Tan editions, and each release left hurt feelings in their wake. On the bright side, 2016 is a new year, and Kanye West and adidas are sure to be introducing a new spate of colorways, and consequently, a new cycle of hope and disappointment.
11. Nike Kyrie 2
Kyrie Irving finally returned to the game earlier this month, and the star point guard stepped on the court wearing the second edition of his signature series. The Nike Kyrie 2 has an unprecedented curved bottom surface on the midsole and outsole, accommodating the sort of intense cutting and banking that often finds the sides of Kyrie's shoe touching the floor. A lightweight Hyperfuse build and cushioned Zoom Air in the heel round out the performance benefits.
adidas Originals bills its new NMD silhouette as a shoe made for "urban exploration without boundaries," reflecting a newfound context shift in which sneakers are no longer just used for sport. The NMD draws inspiration from three vintage Three-Stripe runners -- the Micropacer, Rising Star and Boston Super -- while Primeknit and BOOST cushioning make this a model for the modern world.